Don’t be surprised if there’s a handful of Texas Longhorns players who decide over the next six weeks to pursue their dream of playing college football elsewhere.
I’m told spring exit interviews happened over the last several days, and coaches gave players a very honest assessment about where that player stands coming out of the spring.
In some instances, I’m told, the assessment was the coaches didn’t see playing time - this season or ever - for a handful of players currently on scholarship.
THE QB TRANSFER MARKET
Zaire has a good relationship with Beck, who recruited Zaire at Nebraska (Zaire’s second-choice school behind ND). If not for the presence of Shane Buechele, Zaire would probably have Texas higher up on his list (currently behind Florida and Wisconsin and ahead of Harvard), according to a source close to the situation.
Bolin told HD he and Beck began talking last week, and that Beck told Bolin “let’s get to know each other better.” Bolin said a visit to Austin could occur in May (or perhaps sooner).
As exit interviews occur following spring practices across the country, a few other QB grad transfer candidates could surface. Stay tuned.
In last week’s HD ONLY we reported about the importance of finding a grad transfer candidate (who can actually get into a UT grad program on his own merits) - IF the coaches ultimately decided they’d like the option of redshirting Sam Ehlinger.
That decision has NOT been made and wouldn’t be made until Tom Herman decides the competition at QB for the 2017 season should be closed - probably around the second week of fall camp.
“I want both Shane and Sam to have the summer as part of trying to win the job,” Herman said. “The summer is an important time in terms of earning the trust and respect of your teammates.”
If the season started today, Buechele would be the starter. But the season doesn’t start today.
In the absence of a grad transfer, coaches don’t want to do anything more with Jerrod Heard at QB than have him serve as an emergency option if something happened to both Buechele and Ehlinger.
They really like Heard’s development at receiver and consider him one of the leaders on the team. Heck, right now he’s running with the first team at the outside receiver opposite Collin Johnson.
Walk-on QB Josh Covey (No. 18) of Georgetown East View is getting a serious look at the No. 3 QB position in the absence of a grad transfer.
Things can change, but that’s where we are right now.
THE TOUGHNESS OF SHANE BUECHELE
Tom Herman wants Shane Buechele to be more of an “alpha.” Tim Beck wants Buechele’s leadership to be “a little more boisterous.”
Strength coach Yancy McKnight wants Buechele’s legs stronger to help him make a few more plays with his feet.
A member of last year’s team who is no longer with the Longhorns said one thing about Buechele no one will ever question is his toughness.
The source said people don’t know how much pain Shane Buechele endured last season following a cracked rib suffered against Cal as well as a sprained thumb on his throwing hand the final four games of the season.
The source said Buechele’s sprained thumb definitely impacted his ability to throw deep, which led to defenders sitting on shorter routes and intercepting him five times in the last four games, including three picks at Kansas.
“I don’t think people truly know how tough that kid is,” the source said. “And he never complained. Not once. Shane is one of those kids you definitely have to hide the helmet from when injuries occur, because he’ll tell you he’s fine.
“It seems like this new coaching staff is always trying to get a reaction out of (Buechele). But they’ll see when most players are likely to tighten up in certain game situations, Buechele is at his most calm. You can’t put a value on that at the quarterback position. Seriously, it’s invaluable.”
THE MAGIC HAPPENS WHEN …
Here’s maybe the best news you’ve heard from all of spring football about the direction of the offense and defense heading into summer conditioning:
After talking to several sources inside the program, I feel comfortable in saying - the best players are once again the team’s hardest workers.
That was the case in 2005 (VY, David Thomas, Selvin Young, Jamaal Charles, Kasey Studdard, Lyle Sendlein, Justin Blalock, Michael Huff, Terell Brown, Ced Griffin, Michael Griffin, Brian Robison, etc) …
And again in 2008 (Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, Quan Cosby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Rod Miller, Brian Orakpo, Sergio Kindle, Lamarr Houston, Earl Thomas, etc)
Those seasons turned out pretty well.
From my nearly three decades of covering college football, I’ve always said, “The magic happens when your best players are your hardest workers and when the players are policing the players.”
The players who will most be counted upon to crash the Big 12 party this season and really shake things up are the ones working the hardest.
QB Shane Buechele
QB Sam Ehlinger
RB Chris Warren III
RB Kyle Porter
OL Connor Williams
OL Jake McMillon
OL Zach Shackelford
OL Patrick Vahe
WR Collin Johnson
WR Armanti Foreman
WR Devin Duvernay
WR Jerrod Heard
WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey
WR Lorenzo Joe
WR John Burt
DT Poona Ford
DE Chris Nelson
DE Malcolm Roach
LB Breckyn Hager
LB Anthony Wheeler
NB P.J. Locke
S DeShon Elliott
S Brandon Jones
You may be saying to yourself, “Self, why is Chip telling me this? This is such an innocuous thing he’s saying about the best players being the hardest workers?”
But step back and really digest what I’m saying here, when you comb the rosters in between ’05 and ’08 and since.
No offense to the ’09 team, but the best players on the ’09 offense were Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and Hunter Lawrence (who won the ’09 OU game and the B12 title game) and the defense.
Not trying to be trite or cute. Just truth. It makes you appreciate Colt, Jordan and Hunter that much more.
If Texas has the goods to shake up the Big 12 this season, and let’s be honest, 2017 was the first possible year under Charlie Strong that we talked about a possible Big 12 title.
Just because there was a coaching change - Charlie out, Hurricane Herman in - do we abandon the possibility of 2017 being the year for the Horns to win the Big 12?
I don’t think these players and coaches have abandoned that idea. And - just remember that this year’s best players might be the team’s hardest workers. In the past (05 and 08) those seasons worked out pretty well, if I’m not mistaken.
Court Filing Shows Greg Fenves Is Not On Board With Paying Student Athletes
University of Texas president Greg Fenves made his stance known as it pertains to college athletics remaining under the amateur umbrella.
Kenneth G. Elzinga, an economics professor at the University of Virginia, conducted interviews with five university presidents, including Fenves, regarding ongoing antitrust lawsuits filed against the NCAA in support of college athletes being paid more than just a scholarship.
A court filling of notes from Fenves' Feb. 3, 2017 interview surfaced online earlier this week, thanks to USA Today and DeadSpin. The interview notes quote Fenves saying he "cannot comprehend how athletics would be apart of University life" if student athletes were paid professionals.
UT's president mentioned various reasons in support of his stance, with one of the main takeaways relating to overall fan support. Fenves indirectly mentioned Texas Longhorns freshman center Jarrett Allen in his example of how paying student athletes could lead to a lack of fan support if the athletes don't consistently perform up to standard.
The following excerpt from the interview notes paraphrases Fenves' example of Allen.
(Fenves) was recently at a UT basketball game, and watched a very talented freshman center, who is only 18 years old, play. He (the freshman center) has a great personality, and he’s a very good basketball player, but he also makes mistakes 'like a freshman.' The students know him, and the fans know him. He came to UT to get an education, and they understand that.
When he plays and makes mistakes (e.g., turnovers) people say 'it’s his first season playing. He’s developing. He’s not a professional.' If it was solely up to a labor market, he might not be playing, but if he was and was being paid a professional’s salary and fans watched him play and make 'stupid turnovers' (Fenves) cannot imagine that students and fans would continue to come to see him play.
Fenves seemed concerned with a lack of interest from the current student body if athletes were no longer considered amateur. He mentioned how students go to games to watch their fellow students compete. He believes non-student athletes would not be as interested in supporting their peers if they are paid professionals - a concern he also believes to be true when it comes to the support of Texas alumni.
Things can always change, but if this interview shows anything, it's that Fenves may not be quick to jump onboard with those who believe student athletes deserve to be paid more than simply a scholarship.
Spotlight: State’s Top 2018 TE Mustapha Muhammad
Mustapha Muhammad (© Greg Powers)
2018 four-star tight end Mustapha Muhammad of Missouri City (Texas) spoke to HD about the Longhorns and how his faith and family have molded him into the person he is today.
The No. 2 tight end in the country Mustapha Muhammad holds offers from Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Texas among others.
Muhammad plans to release a top 10 list soon.
When asked about Texas, the Scout 100 prospect said, “I'm very interested, Hook ‘Em.” Muhammad visited Austin during Texas’ Junior Day in late February.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end told HD he’s looking for a school that will help him develop into an elite college tight end. Muhammad said, “I want to play at the college and NFL level, it’s my destiny so to speak.”
Muhammad will make his decision based on wherever he feels most comfortable.
“I’m worried about education first. I'm looking for a school that will allow me to graduate with a well-respected business degree in four years. I do my research all the time. I will google random facts about the business school at different universities.
“My Dad is an entrepreneur. He owns a real estate business located in Houston. What I've observed from my Dad's profession will always make sense. I want to help him with his business.” Everything related to business is somewhat simple. The process is very interesting to me.”
Muhammad talks a lot about his faith, family and friends. He prides himself in having a positive approach to life.
“My parents divorced when I was three years old. I still have a good relationship with my father. I love my family. I have three older brothers from my father’s side.”
Muhammad’s brothers are six, eight and 10 years older than he is.
“I was always looking up to my brothers. They were a lot older than me. They exposed me to things a teenager would do. Doing stuff I'm doing now.”
When asked about significant moments in his life, Muhammad recounted the birth of his younger brother.
“I have a younger brother on my Mom’s side. One of the most memorable experiences was the birth of my younger brother. I was 10 years old at the time. Seeing the emotion on my Mom’s face. Witnessing a baby being brought into the world. That was a very important moment in my life.
"I've been the youngest. I’ve also been the oldest. I know what that is like. I’ve matured gradually. I’m still maturing. I am a Muslim. I thank God first. Nothing would be possible without him. I’ve been very blessed in my life.
“My mother, she’s been with me the whole way. I still look up to her. She’s really inspiring to me. God first, then my mother. She taught me a lot of things. How to be a man. She was single for a very long time.
“My appreciate everything my father has done for me as well.”
“Another person who was close to me was Reuben Muhammad (a mentor to Muhammad). He passed away five or six years ago. He got me playing football. He passed on a lot of knowledge to me.”
Muhammad spends his free time with family and friends. He enjoys playing video games and watching TV.
“I’m very relatable and funny. A pretty cool guy. I have a good bond with my friends. We’re close, like a family.”
Muhammad is one of the top players in the country, regardless of position. He credits basketball in part for his success on the football field.
“My first sport was basketball. I started playing when I was four or five. I played AAU summer basketball. I was committed to it at first. I was good.
"Basketball helped with football. It gave me an advantage. I had an edge in agility, footwork and coordination. I don’t play basketball anymore, except for fun at the park.
“My sophomore year was when I started to focus just on football. It allowed my body to recuperate. A lot of things were going well for me. I was receiving a lot of offers.
"When I got my first offer, my mom told me to focus just on football. I said to myself, 'You know what? This is too much (juggling basketball and football).' (Up to that point), football and basketball kept me busy and away from trouble."
Muhammad has played tight end since little league. He played wide receiver and defensive end here and there but ultimately returned to where he felt comfortable.
Muhammad’s first position was coincidentally tight end. Muhammad said, “It was comfortable and natural to play tight end in little league. In middle school, I played everywhere to help my team.”
As a freshman at Ridge Point High school, Muhammad played on the junior varsity squad predominantly as a wide receiver.
“In high school, I gravitated to wide receiver. I played a little bit of defensive end. Going into my sophomore year, I started putting in a lot of work. I put on more muscle. They put me at tight end.
“That's been a good move by my coaches. I was meant to play the tight end position.”
HD asked Muhammad to describe what sets him apart from others.
“I feel that I’m pretty agile. I’m blessed with a somewhat quick burst for my size. I’ve added some pretty good weight. I can juke and shed tackles. People sleep on my quickness.”
It’s apparent, plenty of coaches dream of how they might utilize Muhammad's talents in their offense.